UNC Pembroke’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program received notification this fall that it has won full accreditation from the National Council on Social Work Education.
The university’s program accepted its first students in 2008 after receiving initial candidacy accreditation in 2007. With full accreditation, the university and its MSW graduates will play an ever-greater role in the region’s response to mental health care, child welfare, geriatric care and more.
“We feel very good about this; it has been a long process,” said Dr. Sherry Edwards, chair of the Department of Social Work and director of the MSW program. “The university gave us their full support to a program that graduates professionals who are much need in this region.”
Chancellor Kyle R. Carter thanked the department for a job well done. “I congratulate the faculty for their hard work,” he said. “I know they were determined to obtain external validation of their good work.
“We all take pride in their accomplishment,” Chancellor Carter continued. “It speaks well of the program and university.”
This region and its people are the biggest winners, Dr. Edwards said. “The community is a beneficiary of this program. There are very few MSWs in our area.”
UNCP’s emerging MSW program has brought about other positive changes, too, namely in the area of social service delivery systems and training.
“Because our student internships must be supervised by an MSW and there are so few [MSWs], our faculty stepped in to work with the agencies,” Edwards explained.
“This exposure of our faculty to the region was good because we had interaction with so many agencies and were able to keep in touch with the region. We are able to adjust our curriculum to the critical needs of the region.”
UNCP’s MSW program trains students to become advanced generalists who can serve rural areas, such as southeastern North Carolina. The program has 40 graduates; about 55 students are currently enrolled either part time or full time in the program.
UNCP’s recent graduates are just now taking the national certification examination after their required two years in the field. The graduation rates will be tracked for reaccreditation purposes in 2016.
A social worker is trained to provide a wide variety of services, including mental health counseling and individual and family social services, as well as counseling and social service guidance to the poor and the elderly and their families.
“Social workers are the largest providers of mental health and child welfare service in the nation,” Dr. Edwards said. “MSWs are front-line professionals in nursing facilities, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, social service agencies and many other areas.
“MSWs are also the largest provider of mental health services to the federal government, which delivers services to the military,” she said. “With full accreditation, our graduates may now work for the federal government on Fort Bragg in Womack Army Hospital for the Veterans Administration or anywhere else in the nation and around the globe.” The program is currently planning a part-time advanced standing program to better meet the needs of the region.
UNCP’s Department of Social Work has come a long way under Dr. Edwards’ leadership. Besides the MSW program, it has established a Bachelor of Social Work cohort at Sandhills Community College, serving Moore County and the western portion of UNCP’s region.
“The bottom line is we need to ensure this region has enough social workers with advanced training,” Dr. Edwards said. “There is a critical need everywhere.”
UNCP’s newly accredited MSW program is ensuring that those needs are being met.